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Staff shortages causing last-minute sailing cancellations, check for online notices, says B.C. Ferries

Illness among staff could force cancellation of some sailings
Duke Point ferry terminal at Nanaimo. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Ferries passengers are being encouraged to check online before heading to a terminal in case their sailing has been cancelled at the last minute.

Several factors could lead to sailing cancellations on some routes, including employees being sick with COVID-19, seasonal cold and flu or severe winter storms, said B.C. Ferries spokesman Dan McIntosh.

Four sailings were cancelled Saturday on the Queen of Cowichan between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo due to staffing issues.

Some sailings can still go ahead despite a shortage of employees but that depends on whether that’s the captain, engineers or a cook, McIntosh said.

Fewer kitchen staff may mean less cafeteria service, but a ferry can’t sail without key staff, he said.

B.C. Ferries has contingency plans in place as requested by the provincial health officer to deal with a rise in absenteeism as the Omicron variant sweeps through the province, and that includes cross-training staff to do other duties or deploying them to different locations.

“All it takes is for a few people to be sick, depending on the role they play on the ferries, and then all of a sudden that augments your schedules in a way that we’ve seen. And we can say, anecdotally, that because of the COVID situation, we know that that is impacting our staff.”

Service notices are posted online as soon as possible when sailings won’t be going ahead as scheduled because so many customers are dependent on the service to get to work, school and medical appointments.

Passengers can check for cancellations before heading to a terminal. They can also sign up to get cancellation notices sent to their mobile devices.

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